NEW ORLEANS – U.S. cotton producers haven’t been exempt from the downturn in the U.S. economy. But growers have continued to turn out good yields of high quality cotton while paying close attention to environmental stewardship.
That’s especially true of four cotton producers who have been named the winners of the 2010 High Cotton awards, the awards presented annually to the nation’s most environmentally conscious cotton growers. This year’s winners, presented by The Cotton Foundation and Farm Press Publications, are: Mike Griffin, Suffolk, Va., Southeast; Jimmy Hargett, Bells Tenn., Mid-South; Jeff Posey, Roby, Texas, Southwest; and Allen Pierucci, Buttonwillow, Calif., Western.
“Cotton producers have faced serious challenges in recent years,” said Greg Frey, vice president of the Agricultural Group of Penton Media Inc., the parent company of the Delta, Southeast, Southwest and Western Farm Presses. “Prices, weather and international trade policy have all made growing cotton profitably increasingly difficult. “The 2010 winners are a testament to the hard work and the environmental ethic of U.S. cotton producers and their determination that the U.S. cotton industry survive and flourish.”
Farm Press began the awards in 1995 to honor growers who were growing profitable, quality cotton and to showcase the good things they were doing in the areas of conservation and environmental stewardship.
Griffin is a former nuclear electrician at a Norfolk, Va., who after working 12 hour shifts at the shipyard, came straight to the farm to help his father. He also began acquiring and renting land to start his own farm.
Griffin’s precision fertility program not only saves money but also fits in well with Griffin’s strict adherence to good soil stewardship.
“Putting on no more chemicals and fertilizers than is needed by the crops for top production just makes good economic and environmental sense,” Griffin said.
Mid-South High Cotton winner Jimmy Hargett has done his part to try to help restore profitability to cotton, providing the inspiration if not the original concept for the module building cotton picker that was later launched by Case IH. But Hargett has also put a lot of effort into preventing soil erosion and improving water quality by using reduced tillage farming practices on the 1,700 acres of cotton, soybean, corn and milo he farms in the rolling hills of west Tennessee.
Hargett’s conversion to no-till cotton did not come easy but today his farm’s soils are protected by terraces, diversions, grass waterways, buffer strips and silt basins, all built by Hargett during his 47 years of farming.
Jeff Posey, High Cotton winner for the Southwest, says leaving the land better than they found it has been a priority for the three generations of his family who are currently involved in farming.
“We’re always looking for what works best and what’s best for the environment,” Posey said. “We’re spraying less pesticide than we used to. And we’re using cover crops where we can. I hate to see sand blow. We keep as much cover on the ground as possible, but we still may cultivate some to fight sand in the spring.”
Allen Pierucci is also a third-generation farmer in the Buttonwillow area of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Like most farmers, he faces the yearly challenges of rising costs but has embraced technology to keep his costs in check.
“We used to cultivate at least two to three times for morningglory and bindweed alone,” he said. “With the Roundup-resistant technology, we cultivate once and spray for weeds.”
Pierucci has joined ranks of precision ag producers utilizing GPS tractor guidance systems and field mapping. He uses AutoFarm for furrowing out, disking and ripping.
“Auto guidance systems are much more efficient and they save time and fuel,” he noted. “When it is foggy, you do not have people standing around waiting for the fog to lift before going into the field.”